Israel says Turkey can build Gaza hospital: Report

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel has authorised Turkey to truck construction materials into the Gaza Strip and to build a new hospital there, an Israeli newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The Israel Hayom freesheet characterised the move as a gesture aimed at thawing relations between the one-time allies which became icy following a 2010 Israeli raid on a ship seeking to break the Jewish state's Gaza blockade, in which nine Turkish activists were killed.

"Security officials said yesterday that the permission was given 'as part of the policy of Israeli openness toward the Turks'," said the paper, which is considered close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"This appears to be an important step in helping produce reconciliation between Turkey and Israel." Security officials were not immediately available to confirm or deny the report.

The Israeli blockade on Gaza was first imposed in June 2006 following the capture by militants from the territory of an Israeli soldier, who was eventually freed in October 2011 in a trade for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

It was strengthened in 2007, when the Islamist Hamas movement took control of Gaza, then eased somewhat following an international outcry over the killing of the Turkish activists.

Israel Hayom said that among items the Turkish contractors asked to take into the coastal strip were boilers, thermostats, radiators, drinking-water systems and fire-extinguishing equipment.

It said that the new hospital would be built on the site of the former Netzarim settlement, in central Gaza, which was evacuated during Israel's 2005 pullout from the territory.

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